CSE 271: User Interface Design: Social and
NEED TO SYNCHRONIZE WITH NEW ORGANIZATION OF READINGS; ALSO NEED MORE
PROBLEMS AND NEW PROBLEMS.
1. Homework will be graded only roughly, and will not be handed back,
because there is no TA; my assessment of homework quality is strongly
influenced by how well the concepts in the readings and lectures are used.
2. There will be homework every week. Please hand in hardcopy; do not
email me an attachment! Be sure your name, the assignment number, and the
due date are clear readable.
3. We may sometimes do problems together in class. For additional
feedback on homework, please see me during my office hours.
- Due 5 April.
- Select two interesting but quite different websites and criticize their
design with respect to meeting their goals and values. (Some interesting
websites are linked from my "What's
Cool" page, e.g., that of Victoria Vesna, or items available by clicking
on the walls of Timothy Leary's house-like homepage.) Note that this is a
two step process: first infer the goals and values from the context, and
then criticize the design.
- Discuss Robert Morey's interactive applet proof of the Pythagorean Theorem.
In particular, explain why letting the user size the triangle is a good idea.
What about the pink smiley faces?
- Design a webpage for your work in this course; hand in a print of the
page, and a sheet stating your goals for its design. You will be graded on
the quality of the design, and to some extent the appropriateness of the
goals. Do not include information about solutions to homework
problems on this page! Appropriate topics might be comments on readings,
questions about content, further details of examples, further references and
links, and new examples. You may find the idea of semiotic morphism useful
- Find at least two inconsistencies in the 1998 CSE 271 class website at the design
level - not spelling, syntax, etc.
- Do problem 17 of Chapter 1, page 14 of the text.
- Due 12 April.
- Do problem 3 of Chapter 2, page 32 of the text.
- Do problem 4 of Chapter 2, page 32 of the text; also give a brief
intuitive description of the source semiotic space for each, i.e., of what
is being represented.
- Do problem 10 of Chapter 2, page 34 of the text.
- Use the "Eight Golden Rules" (pages 74-75 of Shneiderman, handed out in
class) as a basis for critiquing the websites that you discussed in
questions 1 and 2 of the first week's homework.
- Due 19 April. The first four questions below concern the DARPA Information Exploitation Office website (note
that the link takes you to just one page of that office, there is much more
to be explored by following the links).
- Write a one paragraph statement of its goal.
- Write an interface guideline capturing its current style. (An interface
guideline is a set of principles for the style of an interface, e.g., for a
website, or an operating system; it may cover terminology, abbreviations,
capitalization, fonts, font sizes, icons, graphics, colors for background,
titles, highlighting, menu format, dialog-box format, margins, etc. See
pages 100 to 102 in Shneiderman (third edition) for details if you need
them. See Usability Guidelines
and Checklists for examples.)
- Write a brief social impact statement for the site, following the
guidelines in Social Impact Statements, by
Shneiderman and Rose (a postscript version is also
available). (This should be a simple version of what in a real world
example could be quite elaborate.)
- Explain how social issues and values come into your answer to the
- Find at least three syntactic errors in formal code in the first 10
pages of the XHTML appendix of the text.
- Write a proposal for your class project. You should start writing the
paper as soon as your topic is confirmed. The proposal should be on a
separate piece of paper from other homework, and should include your email
address, so that we can discuss it quickly and easily. See the class projects page for some suggested topics.
- Due 26 April.
- Write a semiotic analysis of a small but non-trivial sign, such as the
cover of our text, or the original Total Information
Awareness Logo, or Minard's map of
Napoleon's 1812 defeat. Pay particular attention to colors, sizes,
backgrounds, fonts, etc. of any text, and to the structuring of this single
complex sign as a composition of smaller signs. Point out any instances of
iconicity and indexicality. (You might also find it interesting to analyze
the DARPA logo.)
- In linguistics, mitigation is defined to be any use of language
that has the effect of decreasing the impact of a sentence. One important
class of mitigation devices are hedges, which are adjectives and/or
adverbs that decrease the impact of a noun or verb. Some examples are "sort
of", "sometimes", "possibly", "often", "maybe" and "perhaps". Some other
mitigation devices are syntactic, such as placing the main content in a
subordinate clause. List as many instances of mitigation as you can find in
the first paragraph of Section 2.2.5 of Shneiderman
(page 60), and then rewrite the paragraph without them. Draw a brief
conclusion from this exercise.
- Check out Google's answer
service, including the homepage, FAQ, Terms of Service, and some sample
questions and answers. Relate this to issues about reward discussed in Communication and Collaboration from a
CSCW Perspective by Mark Ackerman.
- Problem 4 of Chapter 4 (page 71) of the text.
- Problem 11 of Chapter 5 (page 97) of the text.
- If you have no already done so, please hand in your project proposal!
It should be on a separte page from the rest of your homework; please
include your email address, so we can discuss it quickly and easily. You
should carefully read the projects page, and also
look at future class notes (in the website for last
year's class), because some of the most interesting topics have not yet
been covered. You can start writing as soon as your topic is confirmed.
- (Optional) Give two real examples of mitigated speech from your own
everyday life; give real examples, not imaginary examples.
- Due 3 May.
- Make as many suggestions as you can for improving the Wireless Questionnaire, using material in the
papers Communication and
Collaboration from a CSCW Perspective and Techniques for Requirements
- The ordering of items in the readings and homework pages of an old version of this course was reverse chronological. Use
semiotic morphisms (in an informal way) to explain why that was not a good
idea - or why it was, if you think it was. Hint: See the first exhibit in the UC San Diego Semiotic
- Describe in some detail how concepts from algebraic semiotics clarify
the Principle of Contrast in chapter 5 of our text.
- Give two examples of adjacency pairs (in the technical sense!) that you
actually observed in ordinary conversation, explain why they are examples,
and describe the context in which they occurred. (Hint: See section 6.2.1
of Techniques for Requirements
Elicitation. Your answer could be rather brief. Please give real
examples, not imaginary ones.)
- Explain in some detail how a scrollbar is a semiotic morphism: at least
sketch the structure of the source semiotic space, including some sorts,
constructors, priorities, and levels. Say what is preserved, and what is
not. Explain why. Also, consider also whether scrollbars should be on the
right or left side of a window, and should have the same color as the window
border (with the unshown part represented by a different shade).
- Due 10 May:
- Show that the 2 counter theory of time of day in minutes, TOD2C,
is isomorphic to TOD; this means that they have exactly the same
information content (when interpreted by a human). If f, g are the two
semiotic morphisms that give the isomorphism, show that one of them
preserves all of the structure in its source, while the other does not; also
say which one is which, and what that means intuitively.
- Use CSCW ideas to explain the phenomenon computer game players would
generally rather have a display of highest scores than computer generated
feedback during play.
- Describe in some detail (e.g., who, when, where, why) an example of
recipient design that you actually observed in your own experience. (Note:
this can be brief. Please give a real example, not an imaginary one.)
- Do problem 11 of Chapter 5 (page 97) in our text, using the notions of
level, priority and semiotic morphism.
- Do problem 17 of Chapter 6 (page 121) in our text, using the notions of
level, priority and semiotic morphism.
- Due 17 May:
- Go to Geisel Library at some fairly busy time; spend at least 30 minutes
observing social interactions that occur there; take notes; then re-read Providing Social Interaction in the Digital
Answer Garden 2: Merging Organizational Memory with Collaborative
Help by Mark
Ackerman; and finally for your assignment, describe in some detail at
least 3 (actually observed) interactions that could not easily be supported
by a computer mediated system, and say why they would be difficult to
- Give an example of a noticeable absence (in its technical sense!) that
you actually observed in natural social interaction, explain why it is an
example, and describe the context in which it appeared. (Note: this can be
brief. Please give a real example, not an imaginary one.)
- Describe the structure of the simple narrative in the webpage The Structure of Narrative with a
parse tree using the grammar given there. Also describe the semiotic
morphism that maps narratives to their Labov structures.
- The first version of the popup explanation windows for the semiotic zoo
included all the same links as the exhibit pages themselves; however, I soon
deleted them. Explain why that was a good idea - or why it wasn't, if you
think it wasn't.
- Use semiotic morphisms to explain why it is usually better to
present a set of weblinks as a broad list rather than as a tree
with non-trivial index layering. Describe a case where this usual rule does
- (Optional) Do the same as in problem 3 for the story in the Darwin Award Nomination.
- (Optional) Give a new item that could be used as an exhibit in the UC San Diego Semiotic Zoo; be sure to
provide a careful explanation for your exhibit.
- Due 26 May:
Because there is a lot of reading this week, the
homework is due on Thursday instead of Tuesday.
- Some pages of the
1998 CSE 271 website used "<hr>" to separate links at the bottom of the
page, but now "<br>" is used instead (but not before the first link or
after the last). Use semiotic morphisms to explain why that is a good idea
- or why it isn't, if you think it isn't.
- Modify the code in this link as
described there; hand in printed copies of your XML source, your XSL source,
your DDT source, and the display that is produced. Also follow the other
instructions that are given on the linked page. Warning: old browsers may
not support XML.
- Write a paragraph explaining how Andersen's notion of
manifestation can be seen as a semiotic morphism; give a simple
example, describe what should be preserved, and say why it should be
- Do problem 4 of Chapter 8 (page 148) in our text.
- Do problem 17 of Chapter 9 (page 169) in our text.
- (Optional) Use OBJ notation to define the Labov narrative structure
defined in The Structure of
Narrative, and also the structure of the particular story given
there. Describe how semiotic morphisms enter into this situation. (See Formal Notation for
Blending.) The OBJ3 Survival Guide
may be useful if you are not familiar with OBJ. Source code for OBJ3
version 2.04, and compiled code for Sun workstations, can be obtained by ftp
ftp://www.cs.ucsd.edu/pub/fac/goguen. The latest (June 2000) open
source release, OBJ3 version
2.06 or later, cleaned up from version 2.04 (from 1992), engineered by
Joseph Kiniry and Sula Ma, and built and supported by Joseph Kiniry; this runs under GCL
2.2.2. You can also get the more recent BOBJ variant of OBJ from the BOBJ ftp site; it is
in pure Java, and is upward compatible with OBJ3.
- Due 2 June:
Note: Your project is due today (but extensions are allowed if
- Pick 3 "oxymorons" from the list of 50 and
explain their oxymoronic meaning as a blend of semiotic morphisms for their
two parts. Because these are jokes, they are also supposed to have at least
one non-oxymoronic blend; both blends should be explained (if they exist).
- Write about one page using semiotics, especially blending, morphisms,
and iconicity, to analyze some specific everyday object, such as a
favorite coffee mug, couch, or table (see the semiotic methodology in Section 7 of the class
- Write a short description of some major actants involved with XML
(including potential users and actants in the standards process) and some of
the most important relations among them. Draw a graph summarizing your
- Pick 3 cartoons from the comics section of this week's newspaper, and
explain for each how some conceptual space has been recontextualized
by adding new information, and show how the resulting new meaning is a blend
(give and fill in the most pertinent parts of the blend diagram). Include a
copy of the cartoons with your answer.
- ... more to come here ...
- (Optional) Analyze the humorous reblending in two or more funny signs at embaumsworld or
some similar source.
- (Optional) Write the other two blends described in the Formal Notation for Conceptual
Blending in OBJ, and run the code in order to type check it.
- Write an outline of the most important points in this class, with an
explaination of the relevance of each one to user interface design.
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Last modified: Sun Jun 12 19:47:14 PDT 2005